Sunday, April 18, 1999

The Book That Killed Colonialism

Pramoedya Ananta Toer
The New York Times

About 50 years ago, at a diplomatic reception in London, one man stood out: he was short by European standards, and thin, and he wore a black fezlike hat over his white hair. From his mouth came an unending cloud of aromatic smoke that permeated the reception hall. This man was Agus Salim, the Republic of Indonesia's first Ambassador to Great Britain. Referred to in his country as the Grand Old Man, Salim was among the first generation of Indonesians to have received a Western education. In this regard, he was a rare species, for at the end of Dutch hegemony over Indonesia in 1943, no more than 3.5 percent of the country's population could read or write.

Not surprisingly, Salim's appearance and demeanor --not to mention the strange smell of his cigarettes-- quickly turned him into the center of attention. One gentleman put into words the question that was on everyone's lips: "What is that thing you're smoking, sir?"

"That, your excellency," Agus Salim is reported to have said, "is the reason for which the West conquered the world!" In fact he was smoking a kretek, an Indonesian cigarette spiced with clove, which for centuries was one of the world's most sought-after spices.

Is my tale about an Indonesian at the court of King James the greatest story of the millennium? Certainly not, though I must smile at the irreverence shown by my countryman. I include it here because it touches on what I would argue are the two most important "processes" of this millennium: the search for spices by Western countries, which brought alien nations and cultures into contact with one another for the first time; and the expansion of educational opportunities, which returned to the colonized peoples of the world a right they had been forced to forfeit under Western colonization --the right to determine their own futures.

Max Havelaar
The latter process is exemplified by what is now an almost unknown literary work: Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company, a novel by Eduard Douwes Dekker, a Dutchman, which he published in 1859 under the pseudonym Multatuli (Latin for "I have suffered greatly"). The book recounts the experiences of one Max Havelaar, an idealistic Dutch colonial official in Java. In the story, Havelaar encounters --and then rebels against-- the system of forced cultivation imposed on Indonesia's peasants by the Dutch Government.

D. H. Lawrence, in his introduction to the 1927 English translation of the novel, called it a most "irritating" work. "On the surface, Max Havelaar is a tract or a pamphlet very much in the same line as Uncle Tom's Cabin," Lawrence wrote. "Instead of 'pity the poor Negro slave' we have 'pity the poor oppressed Javanese'; with the same urgent appeal for legislation, for the Government to do something about it. Well, the [American] Government did do something about Negro slaves, and Uncle Tom's Cabin fell out of date. The Netherlands Government is also said to have done something in Java for the poor, on the strength of Multatuli's book. So that Max Havelaar became a back number."

Before telling you more about Max Havelaar and its author, I would like to go back in time, even before the start of the present millennium, to tell you about the search for spices. The key word to remember here is "religion."

For hundreds of years, spices --clove, nutmeg and pepper-- were the primary cause of religious conflict. Their value was inestimable: as food preservative (essential in the age before refrigeration), as medicine and, at a time when the variety of food was almost unfathomably limited, for taste.

In A.D. 711, Moorish forces conquered Cordoba in southern Spain. By 756, the Muslim ruler Abdar Rahman proclaimed that he had achieved his goal of spreading Islamic culture and trade throughout Spain. That country became the world's center for the study of science and the guardian of Greek and Roman learning that had been banned by the Roman Catholic Church. By controlling the land on both sides of the entrance to the Mediterranean, the Moors were also able to maintain control over trade with the East, source of spices and other important goods. Christian ships were not allowed to pass.

For several centuries, the development of the Christian countries of Europe came to a virtual standstill; all available human and economic resources were being poured into the Crusades. The Holy Wars were waged not just to reclaim Jerusalem but also to expel the Moors from Spain and, in so doing, gain control over the spice trade.

In 1236, the Catholic forces of Europe finally succeeded. Islam was pushed from Europe. To their credit, the victors refrained from vandalizing symbols of Moorish heritage. Nonetheless, revenge toward Islam continued to burn --as did the passion to drive Muslim forces from any country they reached.

The first place to fall was Ceuta in Morocco, on Africa's north coast, which, together with Gibraltar, has always served as the gateway to the Mediterranean. With this, the Europeans had established an important toehold in wresting control of the spice trade. The problem was, they had little idea where spices actually came from.

Spain and Portugal, Europe's two great seafaring nations of the time, set out to find the answer. To preserve order among Catholic countries, a line of demarcation was drawn (later made official by Pope Alexander VI in 1493), giving Spain the right to conquer all non-Christian lands to the west of the Cape Verde Islands, and Portugal the authority to take pagan countries to the east of the islands and as far as the 125th meridian (which falls near the Philippines). It was for this reason that Columbus, helmsman for the Spanish fleet, sailed west and found a continent instead of the source of spices. Portugal, on the other hand, sent its ships eastward to Africa, from which they returned laden with gold, ostrich eggs and slaves -- but no spices.

In early 1498, Vasco da Gama reached the island of Madagascar, off the coast of east Africa. There he found a guide to lead him across the Indian Ocean to the port of Calicut in southwestern India. Arriving on May 20, da Gama "discovered" India. Unfortunately for the weary sailor, he also found that of the spices he sought, only cinnamon was in abundance. To reach the true source of spices, he would have to sail thousands of miles southeast to what is now known as Indonesia and then on to the Moluccas (located, incidentally, in Spain's half of the world). Over the next century, the Portuguese forged their way southeast, consolidating Muslim-held trade routes and converting souls along the way. By the time da Gama's ships made it to the Moluccas in the middle of the 16th century, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Malaya had all been subjugated in the name of both trade and Christ.

Other travelers had visited the region before --including Marco Polo-- but it was the Portuguese who established the first permanent foreign presence. With the help of handheld firearms, Portugal quickly spread its power across the archipelago. In no time, the country controlled the spice route from beginning to end.

There was a problem, though. Portugal lacked the population required to support a maritime force capable of controlling half the non-Catholic world. As a result, it was forced to hire sailors from Germany, France and especially the Netherlands. This weakness would eventually spell the downfall of its monopoly in the spice trade.

One Dutch sailor in the Portuguese fleet, Jan Huygen van Linschoten, made extensive notes during his six years of travel throughout the archipelago. He paid particular attention to the weaknesses of his employers. Portugal, not surprisingly, had done its best to mask its vulnerabilities, but all these were exposed in 1596, when van Linschoten returned home and published a book, A Journey, or Sailing to Portugal India or East India. The book --a virtual travel guide to the region-- was quickly translated into French, English, German and Latin.

Two years after van Linschoten's work was published, the Netherlands, through a consortium of Dutch companies, sent its own fleet to Indonesia. The Dutch fleet's first attempt failed, but gradually, wave after wave of Dutch ships reached the islands, driving out the Portuguese and bringing untold wealth to the Netherlands. Lacking not only manpower but also the diplomatic stature to protect its interests, the Portuguese were unable even to put up a fight.

In part, the success of the Dutch can be attributed to their good working relationship with Java's powerful feudal lords and to their professionalism. Initially at least, they had come to trade, not to conquer / and on that basis created what was then the largest maritime emporium in the world at its seat in Batavia (now Jakarta).

Over time, however, the Dutch shippers needed military force to safeguard their monopoly. To keep international market prices high, they also limited spice production. For this reason, almost the entire populace of the Banda Islands, source of nutmeg, was exterminated in the early 17th century. The island was then stocked with European employees of the company. For field workers they brought in slaves and prisoners of war.

Also for the purpose of controlling spice production, people from the Moluccas were forcibly conscripted, placed in an armada of traditional Moluccan boats and sent off to destroy competitors' nutmeg and clove estates. Buru Island, where I was a political prisoner from 1969 to 1979, was turned from an island of agricultural estates into a vast savanna.

Let us now fast forward to the mid-19th century. As a result of the Napoleonic and Java wars, the Netherlands and the East Indies had entered an economic downturn. Sugar, coffee, tea and indigo had replaced spices as the archipelago's cash crops, but with increased domestic production and limited purchasing power abroad, they were becoming increasingly unprofitable for the Dutch consortium. To replenish profits, the Governor General, J. van den Bosch, decided that the Government must be able to guarantee long-term property rights for investors and that a fixed supply of crops should be exported every year.

To that end, van den Bosch put into effect on Java a system of forced cultivation, known as cultuurstelsel, in which farmers were obliged to surrender a portion of production from their land to the colonial Government. Through this plan, the Government was able to reverse the Netherlands' economic decline in just three years. Java, however, was turned into an agricultural sweatshop. In addition to surrendering land for Government-designated production, paying high taxes to the Dutch and "tithes" to local overlords, peasants were forbidden by law to move away from their hometowns. When famine hit or crops failed, there was literally no way out. As a result, tens of thousands of peasants died of hunger. Meanwhile, Dutch authorities and feudal lords grew richer by the day.

On Oct. 13, 1859, in Brussels, Eduard Douwes Dekker, a former employee of the Dutch Indies Government, finished Max Havelaar. Concern for the impact of the colonial policies on the Indonesian people had marked the career of Dekker, who originally studied to be a minister. When he was posted in North Sumatra, he defended a village chief who had been tortured, and unwittingly found himself on the opposite side of a courtroom from his superior. As a result, he was transferred to West Sumatra, where he protested the Government's efforts to incite ethnic rivalry. Before long, he was called back to Batavia. Only his writing skills saved him from getting the sack entirely. After a few more bumpy stops, Dekker wound up in West Java. It was there, when Dekker was 29, that his disillusionment came to a head and he resigned. Judging from his autobiographical novel, we can assume he wrote the Governor General something like this: "Your Excellency has sanctioned: The system of abuse of authority, of robbery and murder, under which the humble Javanese groans, and it is that I complain about. Your Excellency, there is blood on the pieces of silver you have saved from salary you have earned thus!" He returned to Europe --not to the Netherlands, but to Belgium, where he poured his experiences into Max Havelaar.

Dekker's style is far from refined. In depicting the cultuurstelsel he writes: ''The Government compels the worker to grow on his land what pleases it; it punishes him when he sells the crop so produced to anyone else but it; and it fixes the price it pays him. The cost of transport to Europe, via a privileged trading company, is high. The money given to the Chiefs to encourage them swells the purchase price further, and . . . since, after all, the entire business must yield a profit, this profit can be made in no other way than by paying the Javanese just enough to keep him from starving. Famine? In rich, fertile, blessed Java? Yes, reader. Only a few years ago, whole districts died of starvation. Mothers offered their children for sale to obtain food. Mothers ate their children.''

The publication of Max Havelaar in 1859 was nothing less than earth-shaking. Just as Uncle Tom's Cabin' gave ammunition to the American abolitionist movement, Max Havelaar became the weapon for a growing liberal movement in the Netherlands, which fought to bring about reform in Indonesia. Helped by Max Havelaar, the energized liberal movement was able to shame the Dutch Government into creating a new policy known as the ethical policy, the major goals of which were to promote irrigation, interisland migration and education in the Dutch Indies.

The impact of the reforms was modest at first. By the beginning of the 20th century, however, a small number of Indonesians, primarily the children of traditional rulers, were beginning to feel their effects. One of them was Agus Salim, the man with the clove cigarette, whose reading of Max Havelaar in school proved an awakening. He, along with other Indonesians educated in Dutch, fostered a movement for emancipation and freedom, which eventually led, in the 1940's, to full-scale revolution.

The Indonesian revolution not only gave birth to a new country, it also sparked the call for revolution in Africa, which in turn awakened ever more of the world's colonized peoples and signaled the end of European colonial domination. Perhaps, in a sense, it could be no other way. After all, wasn't the world colonized by Europe because of Indonesia's Spice Islands? One could say that it was Indonesia's destiny to initiate the decolonization process.

To Multatuli -- Eduard Douwes Dekker whose work sparked this process, this world owes a great debt.

Tuesday, April 13, 1999

Mr Wong: Pirate or law-abiding citizen

By Andreas Harsono
The Nation

BATAM ISLAND, Indonesia, April 13, 1999 — "Why should I continue this night business life if he is really the mastermind of the pirates?" Ayu Nani Sabri demanded, plopping her size-three figure into an old sofa inside a dimly lit karaoke bar in Batam.

Ayu lives in a three-story bar and apartment house in the business district of Nagoya in Batam. On the first floor is a karaoke bar where visitors can sit and take their pick of more than a dozen sex workers. Some of the girls, as well as some bar attendants, also share the shop-house with Ayu.

She is not reluctant to talk about Mister Wong, her client and boyfriend, but she is defensive about his alleged occupation.

"I know him as a ship owner. I don't know much about his business. But he is a kind and serious person," said the 27-year-old cewek, the euphemism for a sex worker in Batam.

Mister Wong does not look at all like a bad guy. He is usually dressed in a white, short-sleeved shirt and dark trousers. His Malay is spoken with a strong Chinese influence. He looks more like a mom-and-pop businessman than the pirate captain romanticised by writers and film makers as a one-eyed, bearded renegade sailing the wild seas with his raven-haired pirate bride.

But this Singapore businessman — whose passport identifies him as Chew Cheng Kiat, but who is widely known as Mister Wong — is no ordinary law-abiding citizen of straight-laced Singapore. He is allegedly a pirate.

An Indonesian intelligence source told The Nation that Wong actually heads the Strait of Malacca operations of a major crime syndicate headquartered in Hong Kong. The other branches are based in Johor Baru in Malaysia and in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan.

The boss of this alleged syndicate is a Hong Kong businessman named Ling Sau Pen, whose key men include Tan Chan San in Johor Baru, Chang Kee Ming in Hong Kong and Wang Yi Lung in Taipei.

This syndicate usually not only robs members of the crew, but also takes over their ship.

But Ling, Tan, Chang and Wang were not available for comment. People who know them declined to give their addresses or telephone numbers.

Wong allegedly masterminded a number of pirate attacks on the straits of Malacca and Singapore in recent years, controlling his operation from the MT Pulau Mas tanker, which is usually anchored in a Batam port.

But there are two extremely conflicting versions of his arrest as well as his occupation. The Indonesian navy asserts that Wong is a bad guy who has organised a series of violent ship hijackings.

Meanwhile, Singaporean friends, Wong's lawyers and close friends like Ayu and Pulau Mas captain Arief Lasenda believed that Wong is not so bad. Perhaps, they say, Wong was involved in some dirty business deals, but not piracy.

So far, it is still not clear whose judgment is correct. The Batam district court will make the decision in coming weeks, although many Indonesian legal experts said they doubted whether an Indonesian court can produce a fair decision that is based on internationally recognised legal standards.

Nevertheless, the case has forced a reluctant Indonesia onto centre stage before a rapt audience of international piracy watchers who believe it will help either to clear the tarnished image of the Indonesian navy or to provide conclusive evidence that the Indonesian navy is incapable of dealing legally with pirates.

According to Indonesian Rear Admiral Sumardi, who held a press conference after the arrest, his men had detained Wong following a raid in the Batam-based Hotel 88, where Wong and Ayu were spending the night of Dec 1.

His men also arrested seven Pulau Mas crewmembers. Wong and his associates are now detained in a Batam prison while awaiting trial in the Batam district court on charges ranging from producing fake immigration stamps to hijacking foreign ships such as the MT Atlanta and MT Petro Ranger in Indonesian waters.

Sumardi said that his men had been focusing their attention on Pulau Mas for months as it was repeatedly sighted in the Indonesian waters of Batu Ampar, close to Batam. But every time an Indonesian patrol boat approached the vessel, it would sail into international waters.

Through an ex-member of the Wong syndicate, Sumardi received information that Pulau Mas would be sailing closer to Batam in late November. Sumardi's men were waiting. The vessel was immediately detained and Wong arrested.

Inside the Pulau Mas, the navy found ample evidence of criminal activity which included 15 handcuffs, 14 facemasks, knives, fake immigration stamps, paint, and ship stamps that let the pirates convert hijacked vessels into "phantom" ships.

But Ayu and other sources in Batam questioned what they call the "irregularity" of the Wong arrest, saying that they initially learned of the arrest on the night of Nov 23 — one week before the Hotel 88 raid — when Wong made an international phone call to Ayu from the Pulau Mas while anchoring in Malaysian waters close to Johor Baru.

Wong told her an Indonesian hoodlum named Franky Kansil, with the help of three Indonesian officers and two other hoodlums, had boarded Pulau Mas and asked Wong to give them 50,000 Singaporean dollars.

"It's a lie if they said that Mister Wong was arrested in the hotel," said captain Arief Lasenda, who is among those jailed in a Batam prison.

The captain added that Kansil had most probably had a secret arrangement with some Indonesian officers to both extort money from Wong and to use the Indonesian navy to extend their interests.

When asked about the handcuffs and face masks, Lasenda said it was normal for a captain to possess such equipment. "A captain onboard his ship also functions as a policeman, a prosecutor and a judge," he said, adding that facemasks are needed to work in the cold of the night.

Lawyers Ahmad Dahlan and Masrur Amin also questioned the validity of the arrest, alleging that Wong was apprehanded without official orders or arrest warrants. "He wasn't caught red-handed," said Dahlan.

But Wong managed to walk freely into Batam on Nov 24 and stayed the night in his regular Hotel Kolekta, next door to Hotel 88. He used the one-week period between Nov 24 and Dec 1 for unknown activities — "Waiting," he said — but disappeared from Batam. Ayu also did not know what Wong had actually done during the period.

Meanwhile, Kansil repeatedly made phone calls both to Ayu and Lasenda, threatening to beat and to kill Wong if the Singapore businessman did not pay a ransom.

Wong only came back to Batam on Nov 29 and decided to spend the night with Ayu at Hotel 88, rather than the Kolekta Hotel. "We saw some navy intelligence officers at Kolekta," said Ayu.

But Wong did not look nervous. Perhaps, he was confident that an Indonesian army officer, whom Ayu had intially contacted, had helped secure his problem. Probably the army officer managed to persuade the navy not to arrest Wong. So Wong spent the nights together with Ayu until the raid on Dec 1.

Indonesia's media, including the Batam-based Sijori Pos daily, never mentioned anything about Franky Kansil or Ayu Nani Sabri. They mostly quoted navy and police officers in charge of the Wong case. They also quoted Wong's lawyers, Dahlan and Masrur, but garbled the official version of the arrest, suggesting that Indonesian media, both those in Batam and in Jakarta, did not know much about the clash in the Johor anchorage.

When asked, Batam journalists said they had not heard anything about Kansil, or Rahudin Sibuea, another member of the crew of the Pulau Mas. Sibuea happened to be ashore when Kansil and his gang boarded Pulau Mas and took it into Indonesian waters. Sibuea wrote a letter to Dahlan and Masrur, chronicling the Nov 30 commotion and promising to come to Indonesia to testify if his safety was guaranteed.

"But who could give him such a guarantee? We cannot do it," laughed Dahlan. Sibuea, an Indonesian seaman, is now living in Johor Baru in Malaysia, which is close to Singapore.

Hotel Kolekta staffers said that Wong usually checked in with another passport, using the name of Chong Kee Fong instead of Chew Cheng Kiat. "But people here usually call him Mister Wong," said a receptionist.

The Singapore government has also issued a statement, saying that the real Chew Cheng Kiat is actually another Singaporean who had lost his passport a few years ago. But it cannot confirm whether Wong is a Singaporean or not.

Based on an observation of his accent — his English is regularly accentuated by the typical "lah" — it's obvious Wong is either a Singaporean Chinese or Malaysian Chinese.

Wong declined to give his real name but insisted in a brief interview with The Nation that he is a Singapore national who graduated from the school of economics at Nanyang University in 1972. His wife is now working in Singapore in a denim company, he said, while his two children are studying in Australia.

He declined to talk about the charges, complaining a lot about his prison cell, which he has to share with several other prisoners. He hoped his wife and children did not know about his arrest, "No need to know. What could they do?"

Indeed, the case raises questions here about his reluctance to disclose his real name and the whereabouts of his family. If they live a luxurious life, people are likely to question the source of his money. Wong has known Ayu for only six months, they say, and it would look more natural if Wong gave more money to his children than to his new girlfriend.

But the handful of people who know him in Batam doubt that he is a rich person. He lacks the "style" of a get-rich-quick entrepreneur, and waiters and guests at the Rose Garden karaoke bar of the Kolekta Hotel said Wong is stingy.

"He rarely gives a tip," said a waiter.

Wong even bought his beers at a discount rate and shopped for his men himself. Ayu claimed that she has sometimes lent money to Wong. During their six-month relationship, Wong only gave Ayu two cell phones and some money to do shopping, she said.

Those who believe in Wong's innocence also say that a pirate would not use a slow-moving tanker such as the Pulau Mas. Others said Wong believed that his only mistake was to produce false immigration stamps.

But Ayu really did mean it when she said that she was the only woman who cared for Mister Wong. She would like to wait for Mister Wong, who is now awaiting trial on the Indonesian charges.

"As a night life worker, I do need someone who understands me. I think Mister Wong does understand me as I understand him as well," Ayu said, as she excused herself to go back into the bar to return to work.

A pastor reports on Timor massacre

Andreas Harsono translates a witness' account of the killing in Liquica, East Timor.

The Dili-based Suara Timor Timur newspaper is one of two dailies published in the disputed area. But the older Suara Timor Timur is widely known in the area because of its bold coverage of the day-to-day affairs on the island.

It kept its standard when a bloody massacre took place last week in Liquica, a small town 20 kilometres east of capital Dili. But it did not happen easily. Indonesian military said only five people were killed in Liquica. But a human rights organisation in Dili had the names of 15 people killed in the massacre.

A few years ago, pro-Indonesia militias burned the paper's only van. Indonesian intelligence officers and East Timor militias regularly visit its office in an old building on a street facing the Dili Bay.

On Thursday the newspaper reported a press conference organised by East Timor Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo on the killing in Liquica two days earlier. Belo invited two Catholic priests of the Liquica church, Pastor Rafael dos Santos and Jose Daslan, to tell local and foreign journalists their accounts of the killing.

Here is the translation of Pastor Rafael dos Santos' account from the Suara Timor Timur which literally means the Voice of East Timor:

First, let me say that the two of us [Pastor Jose Daslan and me] were on the scene from Monday, April 5, to Tuesday, April 6. The pro-independence people from Liquica sub-district did not want to be harassed by the pro-integration people from sub-district Maubara.

It's fine if the people of Maubara district want to be the base of Besi Merah Putih [BMP, the militia known as the Iron Rod for the Red-and-White] but just don't try to mobilise in Liquica.

But the BMP moved on Liquica on Monday, April 5. The people of Liquica made an effort to prevent them. On Monday, the people of Liquica manned the border [with Maubara] armed with traditional weapons such as arrows, swords, and spears.

At that time, BMP members appeared in the middle of the main road near the border linking the towns of Maubara and Liquica. But members of the Koramil [sub-district military command] from Maubara also appeared from every direction on the main road. They were under the command of Lt Col Asep Kuswanto, the army commander in Liquica.

As a result [of their actions] six people were shot. Youths from Liquica town wanted to resist with arrows and spears but from all sides gunfire rang out, hitting seven youth. At that time, the youth ran toward the town of Liquica. But all over the town, beginning at 1 pm, the sounds of gunshots could be heard. It was the Liquica military command and the police command doing the shooting.

The shooting by police and soldiers went on for about one hour. People were terrified and ran into the church. After the shooting, the BMP entered Liquica, shouting as they did so. They all entered the compound of the Liquica military command. How was that possible? Who is behind them? I don't know about other places, but I know for a fact that in Liquica it was the members of the military command who were backing them.

Yesterday, April 6, the person who took me from my house was a man with a pistol. We tried to make contact with the head [commander] of the BMP, Manuel Sousa, as well as the regent of Liquica, Leoneto Martanis, and Eurico Gutteres as a middleman, but it didn't work. Leoneto and Manuel Sousa are said to be still very emotional. So they don't want to conduct a dialogue with me to look for a way out and help the thousands of people now staying around the church to go back to their homes.

At the time, Brimob [the riot police] came and surrounded the church fence. They said they wanted to make things safe for the pastor or the people. I don't know about this. But about 1 pm, members of Besi Merah Putih wanted to attack the people who were in the parish houses around the church.

At first, the police shot tear gas into the church. Then, they periodically fired shots in the air. Brimob members shot into the air while BMP members shot at the people in the church. The Brimob shooting into the air gave a chance for the BMP to enter the church grounds, then the BMP began to massacre the people with arrows and spears. The people hit by the tear gas ran outside with their eyes closed, then the BMP members hacked them. The name of this is murder.

The aim of the BMP was to kill all the people in the area of the church, while those who had hidden on the upper floor of the parish house were shot by the army and Brimob while I was brought outside.

Those who were hiding upstairs and in my bathroom were murdered. They were Kades Dato, Jacinto da Costa Conceicao Pereira, Agustinhu, Victor, Leovigildo (a junior high school student) and Lucio. Before this, Laurindo, head of the government fisheries office for Liquica, and Herminio were killed by members of the Maubara sub-district command in their homes.

The mastermind of these murders did not use Javanese soldiers but rather East Timorese native sons, members of the Maubara military command. Only certain soldiers were given arms and joined with the BMP to kill the people. I and Pastor Jose were also targeted for killing, but the traditional weapons of the BMP didn't go off.

The Indonesian military claims that there were two firearms in the house. I told two policemen that Jacinto and his son were only carrying knives when they entered the church grounds. Abri said the two guns were the reason that the BMP and the army killed all those people. The intention of the BMP in coming to Liquica was to kill all the leaders of the pro-independence movement in Liquica.

The people taking shelter in the church compound numbered more than 2,000. I saw myself that there were seven victims killed in the parish house. After the two of us were brought to the Codiaeum, the killing got even more brutal and sadistic.

If the East Timor military commander Col Tono Suratman is saying only five were killed, then what about the youth and old people killed in the parish house? The problem is we don't know where the corpses are. I have no idea. At night I heard the sounds of a truck in the church. We have to know where the bodies are. I came home from the Codiaeum about 7 pm, but when I got home, the bodies weren't there. All that was left was blood all over, including in my bedroom.

At the same time, about eight million rupiah belonging to the Liquica Catholic school that Pastor Jose was saving have disappeared. Money for alms was also looted. The BMP took the motorcycle belonging to Pastor Jose and several other cars and took them to Maubara. Church documents in a cupboard were also damaged and the contents of the house were destroyed. The military and the government must take responsibilityfor the killing and for the looting in Liquica church and in private homes in Liquica.

ANDREAS HARSONO is The Nation's Jakarta correspondent

Copyright 1999 The Nation Publishing Group
The Nation (Thailand)

Dark Alliance Rules the High Seas

For decades Southeast Asian waters have been a hunting ground for murderous pirates who are growing increasingly daring and dangerous. The Nation's correspondent in Indonesia, Andreas Harsono, spent over a month investigating the growing incidents of piracy in the area.

BATAM, Indonesia, April 13, 1999 -- The waters of Southeast Asia have a long history of piracy. But the ongoing economic hardship, fuelled by the Asian currency crisis, a new generation of technology and lack of law enforcement among governments here have helped push the deadly violence to new heights.

Modern pirates include some petty thieves, who steal goods worth a few hundreds US dollars, but its lucrative rewards have also attracted well-organised crime syndicates whose working vessels are equipped with satellite dishes, computers and automatic weapons.

The leaders of these syndicates can control dangerous operations from a great distance away, perhaps in an office building in Hong Kong or from a flashy brothel on this island, 20 kilometres south of Singapore, even as their operatives hijack ships heading for the port of Singapore, which is the world's busiest harbour.

In a month-long study of the problem, The Nation learned from informal conversations with seamen, sex workers and shipping agents in the region that modern piracy is controlled by a dark alliance between pirates and the Indonesian coastal patrol and other marine officials.

Questions also abound here about the recent arrest of a Singaporean businessman, nicknamed "Mister Wong", who has allegedly directed a number of pirate raids on ships in the straits of Malacca and Singapore.

He is a triad boss, the whispers said a month ago.Now, though, it turns out that gangsters and navy officers had initially tried to blackmail Wong, who was broke. After a one-week bargain-and-wait game, Wong finally ended up in a naval detention centre in Batam. Wasn't he able to pay the ransom? Or was he caught in the web of an unusual Indonesian navy operation?

The Indonesian navy denies the allegation of kidnapping and blackmailing, saying that Wong had actually tried "to mislead" the officers. But the navy also declined to reveal the real story behind the Wong arrest.

Was it in Malaysian waters or in a Batam brothel?If it was in Malaysian waters, why did the Indonesian navy go into foreign territory to make the arrest? Did it inform Kuala Lumpur? If it did not inform Kuala Lumpur, wasn't it a regional scandal? If the arrest was really made in the Batam hotel, why did the navy hide the initial arrest? Why did it cooperate with the hoodlums?

Batam is a small island off the Singapore Strait that attracts hundreds of men from Singapore each weekend to have sex with thousands of Indonesian sex workers who hope to earn stable Singapore currency.

It is an island of around half a million people, only an hour by ferry from Singapore.The man who spearheaded the rapid development of Batam was no playboy or dashing entrepreneur, but Indonesian President B J Habibie.

In the late1970s, Habibie, then an aide to president Suharto, was appointed head of the Batam autonomous area.

Habibie moved boldly, drafting liberal legislation and inviting foreign investors, mostly from Singapore, Taiwan and Japan, to build resorts, golf courses, electronic and other middle-size factories in Batam.

In 1996 total private investment reached over US$5 billion. The island is home to manufacturing and ship repair. It became an important element of Indonesia's non-oil and gas exports.

What Habibie did not plan for was the growing sex industry. Being in a relatively poor country next to a rich one, Batam now has legions of sex workers who typically wait for their clients in Batam's many Chinese-owned bright and shiny karaoke bars and slick resorts.

The clients are mostly older Singaporean Chinese like Mister Wong, who is 56, looking for young girls like Ayu Nani Sabri, his current girlfriend.

In Indonesia, prostitution is technically illegal, but the law is not enforced. Rapid industrial development and the influx of foreign tourists have made Batam a strategic location to do business, and unfortunately one growing business there is that of piracy in the Malacca Strait.

The Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Centre reported earlier this year that piracy in Southeast Asian waters had increased from 44 cases in 1997 to 86 incidents throughout 1998, saying that 43 crews were killed, 10 injured and 80 taken hostage last year.

Estimates of losses due to piracy reach as high as $16 billion a year. Most cargo insurers are helpless in the face of it.If challenged on the open sea, the pirates do not hesitate to kill their victims, take over their ship and sell both the ship and their cargoes in black-markets worldwide.

Theoretically, a ship stolen in this region could simply turn up in another part of the world, with a different name and flag, as far away as southern China.

"If we just ignore them, it is not impossible that they will become bigger, more dangerous and equipped with more sophisticated crime technology," said Rear Admiral I Made Renteb, who commands an Indonesian naval base on the island of Bintan, a 45-minute ferry ride from Batam.

According to the centre, Indonesian waters have the highest risk of piracy, with the total number of attacks there increasing from 47 in 1997 to 59 last year. Most of the attacks took place in places such as the Philip Channel in the Malacca Strait or the Singapore Strait.

In these busy areas, ships as a rule have to slow down to avoid collisions in the crowded sea-lanes. Pirates usually approach and board these ships in the middle of a dark night, when the sea is calm and most crew members have fallen asleep.

Using speedboats, they skillfully synchronise the speed of the target vessel and throw grappling hooks on to the deck to board the ship. They can seem unusually quick when taking over the captain's room, locking up the crews and breaking open the ship's safe.

In November, several pirates boarded the Panama-flagged MV Cheung Son and took over the ship, which carried a cargo of furnaces. They gathered the crew members together on the deck and shot the 23 Chinese crewmen.

"Pirates are pirates," said Noel Choong, the regional manager of the centre, adding that six bodies from Cheung Son were later recovered in the nets of Chinese fishing boats.

Choong said in August armed pirates had hijacked a Belize-flagged general cargo vessel, MV Fu Tai, while at anchor in Batam. Six pirates with face masks and armed with knives boarded the vessel. Most of the crew jumped overboard and swam to shore.But three sailors stayed on board. The pirates took control of the vessel and rode it out to the open sea. Both ships, the Fu Tai and Cheung Son are still missing. The fate of the crews remains unknown.

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